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Last March we posted a very neat little video tracing the paths of the roughly 30,000 flights that enter, leave, and just generally hang around European airspace on a summer day. It began in the early morning with the planes coming across the Atlantic, and then as the day wore on it developed into well-managed chaos. The emphasis here is on "well-managed": the visualization was produced by Britain's NATS, the country's biggest provider of air traffic control, and the organization responsible for keeping all those planes from colliding. They weren't exactly bragging, but they weren't exactly not bragging.
Then about three months ago NATS posted a new video. This one is all about the future and it is - bluntly - creepy as all hell. It's supposed to be a futuristic look at how commercial "air traffic control" is inevitably going to be subsumed by commercial "air traffic management," which is both a real airline industry thing and something that is actually kind of interesting for travel geeks.
We do these visualizations from time to time - partly because they're awesome and partly because you guys seem to enjoy them - plus the last week and a half of airline news has been a real downer. We can all use a reminder that there's something kind of magic about how we move millions of people through the air every day.
Wired recently wrote up an explanation for this video, which shows the roughly 30,000 flights that "criss-cross Europe's airspace on a typical summer day." The UK-based data comes from June 21 of last year, while the tracks for the rest of Europe were compiled on July 28. As the day begins and progresses you see the early trans-Atlantic traffic merge in with the traffic coming from the south, and then the major hubs on the Continent begin to light up. Look how shiny!
Travel Tech / WhatsApp / Facebook / Technology / Social Media / Travel News / → All Tags
Sixteen billion dollars.
That's how much Facebook just handed over to WhatsApp, the free SMS messaging app. When all is said and done, the deal is closer to $19 billion, and it's a shocking sum to pay for a company that offers its services for free to users.
Regardless, we've heard "are you on WhatsApp?" the world over, and it's especially popular in regions of where Facebook is not. For example, in India WhatsApp boasts 35 million users, which sounds incredible until you hear the total for globally active users of WhatsApp tops 430 million. This is approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume, and today's news will surely help the app reach and quickly surpass the 500 million milestone. Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for Skype's 300 million users in 2011, so WhatsApp's price does seem right.
Still, $16 billion is a heck of a lot for an app which has famously shirked advertising income, but the result is a simple-to-use, simply designed, free service that fulfills a basic modern need.
FAA / FCC / Cell Phones / Electronics Tavel / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / Technology / → All Tags
America's Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, created a system of government with multiple checks and balances. The idea was to prevent populist excesses and to slow down change, just in case lawmakers got carried away with a seemingly good idea and accidentally - in their own zeal - made the world a worse place to live. This is what they were talking about.
It took literally two years for the FAA to move from thinking about letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate, to writing a proposal letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate, to actually letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate. This was not exactly a rush across the finish line, in other words.
But now that there's some momentum, apparently the federal government - this time the FCC - thinks that everything involving flying and electronics should be up for grabs. Yesterday the agency floated the idea of letting passengers use cell pohnes above 10,000 feet.
Travel Tech / Technology / ViewTag / Airline News / Baggage / Travel Gear / → All Tags
We’ve seen a few different versions and variants on the electronic luggage tags this year, as carriers like British Airways and Qantas have been testing, trying, and taking things to the next level. Now it’s time for another option from which to choose, one that we may see in the near future if it can find an airline to take it on.
The folks over at Vanguard ID have introduced what they’re calling the world's first battery free permanent RFID luggage tag, and even better is that this sucker has a changeable display. The ViewTag also features near-field communication, which allows information to be beamed right over to your cell phone. This means you will be able to track the bag's progress as it makes its way through the twists and turns of the checked baggage system.
This month features a step forward for British Airways and their latest idea, as the carrier is starting to test out their new electronic baggage tags. We’ve mentioned these before, as British Airways tries to streamline the process just like their buddies over at Qantas (they have those handy dandy Q-Tags).
The British Airways recipe is a little bit different, but the theme kind of remains the same. Instead of utilizing paper baggage tags, now passengers get an electronic tag that contains a little screen that can be changed up depending on where they’re heading. Think of it as a really small e-reader—complete with e-ink—that can display different barcodes and different destinations. Let’s just hope hackers—or friends pulling pranks—can’t get into these suckers, as a quick change of the letters might just send your bag on vacation without you.
Travel Tech / In-Flight Entertainment / iPhone / iPhone Travel Apps / Airlines / Max Graham / Air New Zealand / Technology / → All Tags
Hopping between club nights around the world, international DJ Max Graham is seemingly always up in the air and plugged in. Still, evolving travel technology means encountering new features every so often. Here, he shares his impression of a first flight using using streaming entertainment to a personal device:
I recently booked myself on Virgin Australia from Denpasar (Bali), Indonesia to Brisbane, Australia in order to join two other DJs for a four gig Oz tour. About two days before the flight I got an email from Virgin Australia informing me that my upcoming flight had their “wireless entertainment system” and that I should do three things to use it: download their app, activate the app before I fly, and make sure my device is fully charged (no power onboard, I guessed).
So i did just that, grabbed the free app for my iPhone from the app store and fired it up for a quick registration process. Once my travel day arrived and I boarded the plane, it really could'nt have been much easier. I joined their onboard signal, launched the app, and was immediately presented with options titled Watch, Listen, Information, etc, and further segmented into categories for Movies, TV Series, Music Videos, and more.
Football Travel / In-Flight Entertainment / WiFi / Onboard Services / Technology / Sports Travel / Virgin America / JetBlue / United / Frontier / Southwest Airlines / → All Tags
Each and every weekend the country slows to a crawl, as professional football takes over a little bit of our lives. Thanks to improvements with in-flight entertainment it’s not just the chores like mowing the lawn that will keep you from catching the game.
If you’re up in the air on Sundays, Mondays, or even Thursdays several carriers have you more than covered. Sure some options aren’t available on every one of their planes, but carriers like JetBlue and Virgin America get the game live to your seat on each and every flight. Here’s five carriers doing the live television thing, so that you can catch all the action from high in the sky.
With the ability to order snacks—and drinks—right to your seat, we’ve got to say that Virgin America might be the best option for up in the air football. Sundays are all good aboard these planes, as they have CBS, FOX, and NBC stations streaming to you at 35,000-feet. Just be aware that the stations are based out of New York City, so you better get used to watching regional action from the Jets and Giants. They’ve got ESPN too—so Monday Night Football is good to go as well. Bonus points for WiFI access, so you can be disappointed with your fantasy football team in real-time.
More Football After The Jump...
In-Flight Wifi / Technology / Travel Tech / Airline News / Travel News / Virgin America / Gogo / → All Tags
There's an old, killer Louis CK interview where he mercilessly mocks people who are dissatisfied with the quality of In-Flight Wifi. The clip is hystericalwe posted it ourselves way back whenbut it makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable.
We have, after all, occasionally been known to complain about our experience with Gogo internet service. It's amazing technology from the future, of course, but sometimes it's just not good enough for things that we actually need from the Internet, like having enough bandwidth to prevent our VPN from timing out.
Travel Tech / Apple / iPhone / iPhone 5C / Travel News / Technology / → All Tags
Another day, another dollar, another iPhone analysis.
During a keynote earlier, Apple unveiled two new iPhones, the $99/$199 iPhone 5C and $199/$299/$399 iPhone 5S. Of course from the get-go, the general public lusts for the sleek silver, carbon and gold of the 5S, but what about the little 5C? Instead of applause, it's received only laughter and sneers.
Sure, it's slower (using the A6 processor of the iPhone 5 versus the newer, zippier A7 processor in the iPhone 5S), and the color options just make it look like a budget phone, but there's got to be some redeeming qualities. Thus, we'll attempt to justify the existence of the iPhone 5C. Perhaps the cheaper, more colorful sibling of the 5S is better for travel? Let's see...
Hawaiian Airlines / Airlines / Airline News / iPads / Travel Tech / Apple / Technology / Hawaii Travel / → All Tags
The flight to and from Hawaii just got a little bit more entertaining, as it looks like Hawaiian Airlines is ready to bring iPads onboard. You won’t have to wait too long either, as it sounds like the suckers are ready to go and should be an option as soon as this weekend.
Beginning September 1, the plan is to provide in-flight iPad minis as an entertainment option aboard their Boeing 767-300s. Up in business class these will be handed out to travelers for free. but in coach, of course it’s going to cost you. In the back of the plane they will be $15 if reserved in advance, and they’ll be a couple bucks more if you make the decision onboard—assuming they are still available.
The "airplane mode" debate is always a hot topic, and we admit to "forgetting" to turn our electronics all the way off during takeoff and landing, but until there are definitive answers instead of a "we don't know so just ban it all" attitude, travel-savvy passengers will take the electronic interference warnings with a grain of salt.
College Humor recently put their talents to work on a short skit as a nice social commentary on the divisive issue. It's definitely a cute clip until the flight attendant overacts the last minute. Sidenote: you may want to turn down your volume or risk everyone hearing the f-bombs yelled by the FA. One quick spoiler before the video (posted below) is our favorite quote:
So you're saying a $90 million dollar aircraft can't ignore the signal from my $40 iPod Shuffle? That's weird.